Planned Parenthood Takes Texas Lawsuit to Court

Planned Parenthood, which has so far refused to give up on its fight to stay in the Medicaid Women’s Health Program (WHP) in Texas, scored a legal victory Thursday when a state judge granted a temporary injunction against Texas’ efforts to bar it from the program, which provides pap smears and contraception to about 130,000 low-income Texans. 

In its latest lawsuit against the State of Texas, this one filed in state court, Planned Parenthood claims that the “Affiliate Ban Rule,” which excludes abortion “affiliates” from participation in the WHP, is a violation of Texas’ own state law, which makes any provision that causes the state to lose federal matching money for the program “inoperative.” The federal government has said that after December 31st, it will not continue to provide 90 percent of the WHP’s funds if Texas bans Planned Parenthood, because the Center for Medicaid Services considers Planned Parenthood a qualified provider, even if conservative legislators and bureaucrats in Texas do not. No Planned Parenthood in Texas that participates in the WHP provides abortions and in fact, pregnant women are explicitly ineligible for WHP services.

Judge Stephen Yelenosky said on Thursday that Planned Parenthood is “likely to prevail on their claim that the rule is inconsistent with the instructions of the Texas Legislature.”

In Thursday’s hearing, Planned Parenthood argued that its exclusion from the WHP would have a significant negative impact on low-income Texans’ access to health care; in its defense, the state argued that any negative impact was irrelevant to the case.

The state lawsuit—which is scheduled to go to trial on December 17th—is in addition to a federal lawsuit, to which the deeply conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has so far been unsympathetic. But for now, Planned Parenthood can continue to provide services to WHP clients; the state of Texas has said it will file an immediate appeal to Stephen Yelenosky’s Thursday ruling.

For his part, Governor Rick Perry issued a statement decrying Planned Parenthood’s effort this morning before a ruling had been made in the state case, saying that the lawsuit was “another attempt to unashamedly defy the will of Texas voters and taxpayers” and accusing the health care provider of “venue shopping and courtroom sleight-of-hand” that “in no way helps the women of Texas.”

Of course, something else that “in no way helps the women of Texas” is significantly reducing access to reproductive health care for the 50,000 or so of them that rely on Planned Parenthood for their WHP services–for no reason other than to score political points with an increasingly out-of-touch conservative base..

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